Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Birthday

At 5:52 on July 12th 2008 my son Owen was born. What a wonderful day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

All that you can

In my undergrad and graduate programs I studied philosophy and theology. One of the theologians I studied was John Wesley. He was one of the founders of the Methodist movement in England. He worked primarily among the poor who had a terrible time in that day and age. They had no rights, awful working and living conditions and little hope for upward mobility. They lacked education, training and skills of all levels. The government persecuted them and ran them from the cities. The laws of the time were so focused against the poor and "debtors" that they could and did lock you away for the most trivial of infractions and repeat offenders would be hung at the gallows. This was the time of indentured servitude to make it to the "New World." England was on the verge of revolt. In stepped the Methodist movement which centered around social causes. They established food closets, homeless shelters, worship centers, training facilities, educational centers and helped to change a nation. Some researchers even go so far as to say that the Methodist movement may have prevented a civil war in England. And I say all that as a preface to this:
One of John Wesley's maxims was:
Earn all that you can, save all that you can, give all that you can.

Now in America today it seems that maxim should still apply. But the maxim that seems to be in operation is Earn all that you can, spend all that you can and then find a creditor to help you spend more.

Look at the Wesley maxim:
Earn all that you can.
Earning gives one potential and opportunity. Not only does it better your own life but it also benefits the life of your family. Everyone is pulled up when you increase earning. But increased earning does not mean increased spending.

Save all that you can.
Earning allows you to live a better life. But some of that earning should (must) go to savings. Things happen and if a bad thing happens and you lose your ability to earn, then you need to have a safety net. It is advised to keep a few months of savings on hand. That would give you a lead time to find new work. Plus, one needs to save for retirement, save for vacation, save for kids' education, save to buy a house... save all that you can. Then you are prepared and ahead of the game when bad things happen. Or you are prepared and not needing credit when you wish to take a vacation or return to school or buy that car. The bank doesn't take part of your hard earned money in interest and fees. Saving money has the benefit of preparing for hard times, getting more for your money when you do spend it, and provides a certain peace of mind.

Give all that you can.
When is the last time you dug deep to give all that you can? We will take the most crazy opportunities to earn all that we can; sacrifice family, friends, and health to earn the big bucks. And if we want something bad enough, then we will scrimp and save to get it. But when do we really give ALL that we can? How does giving help? Why give? Giving creates solid communities. If the giving is going to help others who truly need the help to make it through a hard time then it builds a strong community. If the giving goes to programs that builds education, training, community programs, etc. then it creates a stronger society. And that is good for you because we all benefit from a strong society. Not only does it feel good to see the fruit of giving through better educational facilities, or better parks, or families being fed, but it also is good for them and for you. There may be a time when you need a little help and if the program is not in place because no one ever gave to it, then it won't be there for you either. How deep can you dig to give all that you can?

I hope that this does not sound too preachy, but it seems that a lot of today's financial and economic problems are due to people's misperception of money and its role in life. Money serves us, we should not serve it. If you don't control your money then it will control you. Be wise with the penny and you will always have an extra dollar.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Happy Fathers day!!!

Sometimes I get to thinking about being a Dad. I mean when we are growing up you just take parents for granted. But after you have your own kids and you find yourself saying and doing things that you remember your own parents saying or doing to you... well you have to stop and think. It also makes me appreciate my parents and all the crap I put them through. Now it all makes so much more sense. I mean you really have to live it to sympathize with it. Parenting is tough.

The funny thing is you really do have to live it. You can read about it, study it, observe it, critique it, but ultimately none of that can prepare you for living it. Words of wisdom, advice about life and raising kids is all fine and dandy but until you are really knee deep into it none of that advice makes much sense. And then try to remember what some auntie or grandma said about kids and discipline and education and.... everything else they like to go on and on about. It all just goes right out the window once living the life of a parent begins.

Yes I think there needs to be some underlying philosophy of child rearing that holds relatively consistent between the parents and other care givers, etc. But really... Sometime life just runs you over and it all flies out the window. Sometimes you will just do whatever it takes to get five minutes of peace and quiet.

I love my parents and have a much better understanding of where they were coming from and who they are. I think they did a good job in spite of all my attempts to sabotage their hard work.

I hope that someday my kids look back on me with the same attitude, until then I will pick my battles, hold the line, and do the best I can each day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Natural vs. Artificial

I was reading recently about the coming doom predicted by the Mayan calender. According to the theory in December 2012 we will move into a new era. Sort of like in the Chinese calendar moving from the year of the dragon to the year of the rat. Of course, some take this 2012 as a sign of Armageddon (which is Christian end time not Mayan end time) and then all of the conspiracy theorists take over and predict all types of horrible things. But in reality nothing so amazing is supposed to happen (cross our fingers). It is simply moving from one astrological frame of reference to another. In this new era, a new balance is supposed to be reached between heaven and earth, or humanity and nature, etc. You can Google it if you desire more details. This is all just a preface to some thought I had. As I was reading, the author of the article about 2012 pointed out the disparity of time. We live in time dictated by the clock, not by nature. Think about that for a moment.

Think about Nature and the natural flow to life:
  1. Seasons
  2. Birth/death cycle
  3. Migratory cycles
  4. Sunrise/sunset time frames
  5. Eating when hungry
  6. Subsistence living
  7. Hunter/gather: nomadic

Natural living is the rhythms inherent in nature expressed through intuition and instinct.

Now think about artificial living and the flow of life it creates

  1. 9-5 work hours (set work days) and long commutes
  2. Clock time
  3. Calender time
  4. Money ordered existence: consumer mentality
  5. Residential housing, private ownership
  6. Existence (self worth) defined by career or ownership

Artificial living is through constructs created to shape life with ulterior motives dictated by external pressures not internal needs.

Now I know perhaps I have lost some of you at this point. No, I don't advocate going back and living in caves as hunter/ gatherers. But I do wish that we could allow natural rhythms to have a say in how we live and commune with each other. What if I could eat when I was hungry instead of at dinner time. If I was tired can I sleep in or will my boss get mad if I am an hour late, even though the extra sleep will make me more productive? Yes, there are easy abuses in this system. I think it takes a lot of trust in fellow humanity. Can I depend upon the other person to do their job? But does that matter? Look at the stock market. That is a completely artificial system built into and on top of other artificial systems. But even it has its natural rhythms. And will it collapse if I take a few extra minutes sleep? Can a company be run upon the ideas of natural rhythms in life and in trusting others to do their jobs? Or are we all that cynical and suspicious?

I watch these squirrels run around my back yard. Right now they are mating and eating and doing squirrel stuff. But in another few months they will begin to store up for the winter. Those who store up enough survive; those who don't die. Pretty simple. Apply that to humanity. Is it even possible to live that simply? Think about it. Think about what would happen if the tree charged the squirrel a percentage for the nuts. And the dirt, a charge for storage. And then some hawk had to be paid for security. Of course the tree doesn't want more nuts; it wants fertilizer. So the squirrel has to find a way to trade nuts for fertilizer which introduces the middle man and then of course, the bank who charges interest on the exchange rate. And now the poor squirrel has to gather twice as many nuts to pay all the fees, charges and taxes (because those hawks can't be left unsupervised and the banking system needs to be regulated and so they need a government). And still it may not be enough to make it though the winter because there could be fluctuations in the exchange rate that eats up all the savings. How is a man to make it in this new crazy world? This is a drastic oversimplification. Or is it? Can we simplify society, life, community, work, etc. to reflect the instinctual natural tendencies? Can we blend the natural and the artificial to create a balanced, harmonious life, taking the good that both has to offer? Or is this a crazy Utopian dream? Maybe 2012 when force and answer or maybe not.

Monday, April 7, 2008

For Good or for Pleasure

Why do you do the things that you do? Is it for the good or for the pleasure?

I was reading in the Upanishads the other morning and I read a passage about the difference between good and pleasure. It is often a hard distinction to make. But it is a very real and very profound one. Think about it for just a moment.

What is good? In one situation what is good may be different than in another. I don't think it can be defined in any hard and solid ways. It is a loose concept with few parameters. If it is self- seeking then most likely it is not the good. Seeking the good puts the self as the subject not the object. The good extends outward from the one doing the action to the furthest reaches possible. It is not contained in the action or the one committing the act. The good begins in one place but then moves outward in every expanding circle of influence. What is the good? I think it is up to each person to wrestle with that question in their own terms, life and situations.

What is the pleasure? Pleasure is that which feels good but with the self as the object and others as the subject acting towards or on the object. It tends to be, ultimately, self-seeking. Do for "me" that which I want, like, need. Pleasure is a misleading but very enticing way of life.

What would happen to the world if we started seeking the good instead of the pleasure? What would happen to our life, our community, our countries if we stepped outside of our desire to find pleasure, but rather put ourselves second and sought the good for others? How big of an impact could we have with just a little perspective change?

This is a difficult idea because the difference between the good and the pleasure is often not that big and it is easy to slip from one to the other. And to seek the good is often a personal choice. No one outside that person can address the idea of motive, they can only witness the results. My seeking the good may look very different than your seeking the good. I just have to trust in myself that the good will be carried out and not fall into judging, condemning and second guessing those near me. I think ultimately actions will be proven with results.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Becoming an Artist

So far in this blog I have not talked too much about my artwork. Art has always been a part of my life. Over the years the time I spent doing art has waxed and waned with my available time, energy, space, etc. Yet in all my life it seems that art has remained a constant. But not until recently did I put it together with the rest of my life and embark on this adventure of being an artist: that is using art as a means of expression for inward and outward searching. I am philosophical and intuitive by nature but even so I have not put a lot of thought into why or how I "do" art. When I sit down to paint or draw, a different part of my being opens up and moves forward. It is hard to describe. At times a certain image will float about in my mind until I can finally sit down and express it on canvas with paints. At other times when I sit before the white canvas or blank page I can see the picture begin to take shape and all I need to do is color it in. As my skills have developed it has become easier to express that which is my head or that which I see on the canvas. But where those thoughts, images, etc. come from remain a mystery. I am not sure if that mystery is something I need to pierce at this time.

There are times where I might break from this expressive art and move to a more intentional art piece. For example, if I want to speak about the environment, a religious theme, capture a moment in time, etc. Then I will sit down to do sketches, work up colors, etc. and then begin the painting. I find those pictures hard to paint. Some of my frustration comes from lack of skill level, some from general frustrations that all artist have about perfection, and some from boredom. But in those moments discipline and perseverance carries the day. It is hard to move forward with a piece that seems to just drag on and on. But I also find that it is in those pieces that I have the most growth in skill development, patience, and reward.

I enjoy reading about art history and theory. I would say that to this date the biggest influence on my thinking and painting has been the German Expressionist, the Bauhaus and Kandinsky in particular, and Schiele, Klimt, (these last two being interesting because I am a landscape painter and they are primarily portrait painters), and Hodler.

Currently I am a bi vocational artist, I have to hold a "real" job to support my habit (my art). But a day I can spend in the studio is a good day. And after a really hard day or week at "work" I really look forward to my art time. It relaxes me, reconnects me and empowers me. Art is a must in my routine, even if just a little at a time (or all that I can get).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Project update

It has been a month since I started my world literature project. I have made some progress and have began reading some texts. It is an amazing project. The hurdles to overcome at times seem too large to even grasp. But with some diligence I think I can move forward, one little step at a time. My list is growing, as it should, even though I am running into problems of dating. Some sources put a text at a certain date but other sources date it differently. I am also cheating a little. Instead of listing every little scrap of text written on papyrus, inscribed in stone or preserved in mud tablets, I am only listing the source I am using for the whole collection. Well that is the technical side and I am still working out the methodology and approach.

As for insights. I have found human thought occupied with three subjects so far. The Code of Hammurabi, the Law of Manu and the Torah are great examples of the first and second concerns of human thought: Law and religion. Even in the most ancient of times laws regulating moral conduct, religious life, civilian life and lawsuits were abundant. We as a people group are very litigious. And the law carried outward from civil life to religious life, or visa versa. Religious codes of conduct, sacrifice, priesthood, etc. occupy a lot of ancient texts. Even ancient myths center around the role of the gods in the life and creation of the world. It takes centuries of Babylonian and Assyrian thought development before the role the human is even explored in relation to the gods. The third thought which I have found preserved in ancient texts is the idea of personal legacy. Kings, rulers, priests, etc. all wish to leave a written record of what they had accomplished in their life time. Lands conquered, wealth gained, armies destroyed, cities built... it goes on and on and today it is all gone, but to them in that day it was SO important for the memory to be preserved.

Well I will keep reading and reflecting. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.